By Emily Votruba
On May 25 at 7 pm, Frankfort–Elberta’s very own Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre company will transform Oliver Art Center into the House of Capulet for “An Evening in Verona”—a fun theatrical party with a purpose.
Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, which gets you local food and wine as well as entertainment. But just as important, says Amy Daniels-Moehle, Lakeside’s new director of community development, is that the company wants us all to get to know each other better. “They come every year and they’re here and gone so quickly. The rehearsals start in Chicago during the second week in June. They practice like crazy until they arrive July 20, they stay until August 2 and then they go back to their other jobs.”
Lakeside Shakespeare has been coming here every summer since 2003, just for us.
On May 15 the troupe held a mask-making workshop to prepare for one of the especially fun aspects of this event: Guests are asked to take sides in probably the most heart-throbbingly tragic love story ever told. You can choose to be a Capulet (Juliet’s team) or a Montague (Romeo’s). In the play the two families are feuding for some stupid reason barely anyone remembers. One night, Romeo and his entourage infiltrate a party at the Capulets’ house. There, Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time and fall in love.
If you decide to be on Romeo’s team, wear a mask to this event. Not wearing a mask may subject you to the assumption that you are a Capulet. If you don’t have a mask, no worries: there will be some on hand. Enthusiastic reenactors take note: “No poison or daggers will be allowed, swords must be checked at the door.”
I asked Amy, who organized the event, for a walk-through. I harbor delusions of thespian grandeur like anybody else, but I’m also shy. What happens if I don’t dress up? And what happens if I do? She assured me that I won’t be pulled out of the audience to recite lines. “The actors will be performing scenes from past shows. The performances themselves won’t necessarily be interactive … but you never know what they’re going to do!” (Note to self: Wear a mask, hug the wall.)
Amy says actors will also definitely be mingling casually with the public throughout the evening. “Jeff Christian is a professor, actor, and director. And Danny Taylor, who played Puck last year, will do Puck. They are pros and they know how to wow people,” Amy says.
Local kids who participated in the theater workshops held this winter will appear as fairies, distributing playbills, masks, and Grocer’s Daughter chocolates to all the “Veronese”—that’s us, the party guests. Sharron May of Beyond Salon will style the fairies’ hair, and in one of several silent and live auctions of the evening, one guest will be spirited away by fairies to have their hair “Verona’d” by Sharron. “I’m giddy because so many people in the community have come forward to help,” says Amy.
“The actors come here only for us,” says Amy. “They’re all professionals except for my daughter, Nadia Daniels-Moehle.” Nadia is 12, and she got involved in the workshops in 2009. Christy Arington, an actor and director with Lakeside, asked Nadia if she’d play one of Macbeth’s children. “My child was murdered night after night. Then the following season they offered her a position as an ensemble member,” Amy says, laughing.
Elizabeth Laidlaw is Lakeside Shakespeare’s founder and artistic director. I asked her a few other questions about the “Evening in Verona.”
Q I don’t know the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I want to come to the Evening. Should I read it before Saturday?
Elizabeth Laidlaw No need! The actors will perform scenes representing LST past and present, including scenes from The Comedy of Errors and of course, Romeo and Juliet. Reading R&J before the shows begin this summer would be wonderful, and for those who want to learn more we have a workshop just for adults on Saturday, July 27, from 1 pm to 3 pm, at the Oliver Art Center, in which we’ll study and analyze both of the plays we’ll be performing. For more details and to enroll, visit www.lakesideshakespeare.org
Q Any particular reason why you chose Romeo and Juliet for this year’s tragedy?
Elizabeth Laidlaw A lot of considerations go into every season’s selection, and probably the first inspiration is watching members of the ensemble perform and thinking, “What would we like to do next?” We realized watching Hamlet last year that we had a wonderful Romeo and Juliet combination in Shane Kenyon and Jill Rafa, and then we started imagining how the rest of the ensemble might fit in. Then we considered it from a practical standpoint; it seemed that our 10th anniversary, a year in which we are really trying to expand and reach a wider audience, that a well-known, well-loved play would be a way to entice new people to our performances. We did it in 2004, our second season, and it will be fun to revisit it with a different director and cast, though several actors from the original production will be back, but playing different roles.
Q Have you guys ever done anything like this before?
Elizabeth Laidlaw “An Evening In Verona” will be our first fundraiser involving the entire community. We have had small parties for primary donors and benefactors during our performance weeks, but with all of us working as actors and directors in Chicago during the year, and with the breakneck schedule we are on once we start rehearsals down in Chicago, followed by bringing the shows to Frankfort for an intense two weeks, an event like this was very logistically difficult to plan. Until, of course, Amy Daniels-Moehle joined our ensemble! “Evening in Verona,” is her baby. This could only happen because she is a member of the community and has both the connections and the actual physical presence to get things accomplished. This event would not be happening without her.
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Well, this shy exhibitionist plans to attend on Saturday, and urges you to do so as well. In addition to the free deeply local chocolate, wine from the Leelanau Vintner’s Association, and food made by Jim Barnes and Suz McLaughlin from our farming friends and neighbors (Birch Point, Echo Bend, The Ant and the Grasshopper, May Farm, Ware Farm), guests also get a chance to win a walk-on role during this summer’s season. I guess if I have to, I can step onstage.
Tickets are available at Corner Drug, Charlie’s Natural Food Market, and the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort, and Oryana Natural Food Market in Traverse City. For online purchase visit mynorthtickets.com.
Don’t miss Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre’s 10th Anniversary Season!
Romeo and Juliet and The Comedy of Errors
July 23 to August 2